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ALEXANDEB  VON   HUMBOLDT.                  48
degree of longitude, ho saw the brilliant constellation
of the southern cross;  and when he gazed for the
first time on this sign of a new world, he felt with
deep emotion that the dreams of his childhood were
realized.    What he felt at this hour of his life, he be-
trays iu his own. words: " When one begins to cast a
look on. geographical charts, and to read the narratives
of travellers., one feels a kind of preference for certain
coxmtrioB and climates, of which preference we can
give no satisfactory account in riper age.    These im-
pressions exorcise a sensible influence on our plans,
and we endeavour,  almost instinctively, to approach
nearer to those objects which have long had a secret
charm for us.    When I first studied the stars, I was
agitated by a secret fear, unknown to those who lead
a sedentary life ; it grieved me to resign the hope of
seeing the beautiful constellations which are situated
near the south pole.    Impatient to explore the equa-
torial regions,   I  could never raise  my eyes to the
starred vault of heaven without thinking of the cross
of the south pole, and without recalling to mind the
beautiful passage in Dante's ' Inferno/ in which he
refers to it/3    The whole ship's company, especially
thoso who had already inhabited the American colonies,
sharod the satisfaction which. Humboldt felt at the
sight  of this  constellation.    In  the  solitude  of the
ocoiiu, a star in greeted as $, friend from whom one
lias been long separated ; and above this, a religious
fooling endears this constellation to the Spaniards and
Portuguese, for it was the same constellation which
welcomed the first mariners of the 15th century, when
the atare of their native north vanished from before
thorn,
But Humboldt was aLso to experience the terrible
scourge of illness on board a ship, during the last d&ys
of hiB journey, A malignant fever broke out, which
grow more serious the nearer the ship approached the
Antilles. A young Asturian of nineteen years of
ago, the youngest of the passengers, died, and his
death made a deep kapression on Humboldt* p&ttiy